Politics Report: Hello, New Mayor's Race - Voice of San Diego

Politics

Politics Report: Hello, New Mayor's Race

The March primary election just got very interesting. What does the new Republican in the race think of Trump? And major support for a … levy?

Councilman Scott Sherman / Photo by Dustin Michelson

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Councilman Scott Sherman is in the mayor’s race. There will, in the end, be a major Republican contender for a seat that has been held by Republicans for roughly 26 of the last 27 years (not counting interim mayors, since that is not a position that exists).

Sherman promised to make housing a central issue in the race, although that’s basically already the case, as Councilwoman Barbara Bry has framed herself as a protector of the city’s single-family neighborhoods and Assemblyman Todd Gloria has declared himself a YIMBY, for yes in my backyard.

Sherman thinks he can still put his stamp on that conversation.

“We need more market-based solutions, instead of mandates and fees and those types of things,” he said. “We’ve already seen where market-based things can spur development, like in Grantville, we changed some zoning and incentives and now we have all kinds of new units going in there, 27 percent of which is affordable without any mandate.”

“Property rights, to me, is one of the most important pillars of our Constitution,” Sherman said. “To say people are coming for this or coming for that – we need to build housing so our kids and grandkids aren’t forced to move out. Both of my kids live out of state, because they can’t afford to stay.”

Sherman’s likely to give voice to other conservative positions – his campaign website rails against union-backed prevailing wages and the inconvenience of bike lanes.

Meanwhile, community activist Tasha Williamson entered the race last year, ensuring at the least that criminal justice and public safety issues play a role in the campaign.

Should Bry Be Worried?

Councilwoman Barbara Bry and Councilman Scott Sherman / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The Politics Report ran into Bry and her husband at the Innovation Awards hosted by CONNECT (it’s an event Bry actually started decades ago). The event really drove home how woven into that world of tech, innovation and UC San Diego Bry is and how separate that world is from the group that goes to similar events hosted by, say, the Taxpayers Association or Downtown Partnership.

Anyway, Bry’s husband, Neil Senturia, gave the Politics Report a challenge: Would we have the courage to ask Sherman why he would run for mayor if he has no chance?

Wow, well, yeesh, that’s a tough one.

So we got up the courage and made a call to Sherman. Here’s a tightened transcript:

Barbara Bry’s husband challenged me to ask you why you would run for mayor when you have no chance. So why would you run for mayor if you have no chance?

Norma and I were looking forward to having a private life again. Everywhere I was going the last couple months, people would stop me and ask if I was going to run. The pressure and discussions got pretty intense and we finally sat down and said, “Let’s give it a shot.”

There are a lot of people who said they would support me if I did it. We’re going to use different avenues. I think we can pull it off, I really do. It’s going to be very tough, and a lot of things are going to have to happen for us to make. But there’s a chance.

I’ve got to ask you about the president. The Democrats used anti-Trump messaging against your former colleague, Lorie Zapf, and it seemed to work. Another colleague, Mark Kersey, left the party, as did Summer Stephan, the district attorney. Do you support the president?

He has very little to do with city politics and that’s why I’m in city politics. That was a tough decision whether to vote for him or not to vote for him. Trump has nothing to do with me and I have nothing to do with him.

Do you plan to support his re-election?

I’m not even going to get into the entire Trump debate. It’s just not going to happen. This is about the city. We have state representatives. We have federal representatives. If you have issues with them, talk to them. If I wanted to deal with those issues, I would run for those offices.

Did you ever get a hold of the Jaguars? (When the Chargers left, Sherman had promised to get on the phone with the Jacksonville Jaguars about relocating that team to San Diego.)

I was talking to another team and I promised I wouldn’t mention who. I did have some discussion. Once you shake someone’s hand, you can’t violate their confidence.

What Will the Lincoln Club Do?

One basic theory is that Sherman’s entry in the race will hurt Bry’s campaign. Gloria has consolidated the institutional support of the Democratic Party, most of labor and even the Chamber of Commerce.

Sherman can consolidate Republican support and raise a bare minimum to become identified as the GOP choice (maybe $250,000 or so).

That leaves Bry in the position that Nathan Fletcher was in during the 2012 and 2013 mayoral campaigns. In those races, Fletcher had a lot of support and raised significant money – much like Bry – but he faced relentless attacks from both the left and the right. Neither time was he able to get through the primary.

From the right, he got it in particular from the Lincoln Club, the conservative group. But two of the top members of the Lincoln Club have this year already been raising money for Bry: developers Tom Sudberry and Michael Turk.

There’s one more wrinkle: Sherman, you may remember, left the Lincoln Club last year after tensions over the SoccerCity versus SDSU battle. Sudberry supported SDSU West. Sherman supported SoccerCity.

We called the Lincoln Club’s president, Brian Pepin. He didn’t want to get into all those things. But he did offer this about Sherman, for whom Pepin worked.

“Gloria and Bry may be very different candidates, but ultimately they both believe more government is the answer. It’s notable that San Diego now has someone running for mayor who believes that smaller government is a better path forward for our city.”

Poll Finds Huge Support for … Levy of Assessed Value

Affordable housing advocates are cheering a new poll they believe shows the viability of a potential November 2020 housing bond.

Results released this week show about 70 percent of 563 city voters polled last month would support the $900 million bond – in excess of the two-thirds needed for approval.

The poll, conducted by Oakland-based EMC Research, asked voters if they would support the measure, which supporters estimate would add 19 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to city homeowners’ property tax bills.

The poll was missing one key piece of information: It did not directly state that the measure would require a property-tax hike.

After describing what good the money would do, poll respondents were asked: “Shall the city of San Diego issue $900 million in general obligation bonds with an estimated levy of 19 cents per $1,000 of assessed value … ”

We’re not experts but we’re guessing around 68 people in San Diego understand what the “levy of 19 cents per $1,000 of assessed value” is referring to. It’s referring to property taxes. If you own a home assessed at $500,000, your property taxes would be increased $95 per year.

Stephen Russell of the San Diego Housing Federation, the group rallying behind the measure, said the results give city leaders and advocates fuel to keep moving forward, and say the measure could fund 7,500 affordable homes for homeless and vulnerable San Diegans.

“It definitely puts us in the zone for success,” Russell said.

Last month, a City Council committee took a step toward eventually putting the measure on the ballot next year.

Russell said he expects the resolution brought forward by City Councilman Chris Ward will head to the full City Council in January.

Quiet D9 Race Is Suddenly Getting Rough

For weeks after Council President Georgette Gómez announced she was vacating her Council seat to run for Congress, there was little attention on the race to replace her. Candidates announced their candidacy and lined up support, but it was perhaps the least-discussed race of the five open Council seats.

But for two weeks now, Kelvin Barrios, a labor organizer and former Gómez staffer, has had to answer accusations about misspent funds during a school board campaign for which he was a consultant, and from his time as treasurer for the California Young Democrats Latino Caucus.

The state’s Fair Political Practices Commission fined Barrios more than $4,000 after finding that he illegally spent more than $8,000 from both the school board committee and the caucus account. They said he cut checks to himself or used a debit card connected to the accounts on personal expenditures, and was unable to provide any documentation showing the payments were associated with official business.

“Barrios admitted to FPPC investigators that these purchases were for his personal benefit,” the FPPC ruling reads on the spending from the school board race.

It came to the same conclusion on his spending for the California Young Democrats Latino Caucus.

“The Caucus Committee identified, and Barrios agreed, that several expenditures were not authorized uses of committee funds and were for Barrios’ personal benefit,” the FPPC wrote.

Barrios argued to FPPC investigators that he thought he was reimbursing himself for things he was owed. But the FPPC determined that “the lack of recordkeeping further obfuscates Barrios’s use of committee funds.”

The investigators added that Barrios “exhibited a pattern by using multiple committee accounts in this way.”

Not a small thing: The FPPC ruling makes clear it took Barrios’s violations seriously. For one, he had already violated the Fair Political Practices Act by failing to file proper paperwork on the school board campaign. He paid a small fine for that, but the FPPC doesn’t like repeat offenses.

But the bigger issue, the FPPC wrote, was the nature of the violation: personal use of campaign funds.

“This is an important restriction, which helps to distinguish campaign contributions from gifts,” the FPPC wrote. “When a public official makes personal use of campaign funds, it is a serious violation of the Act that erodes public confidence in the political process by creating the appearance that lawful campaign contributions are personal gifts to the public official.”

Barrios said the problem resulted from his decision to work for candidates and groups that had little money and no ability to pay for advice from a lawyer or treasurer.

“As a result, I made reporting and reimbursement mistakes that I take responsibility for. I have participated fully with the FPPC to ensure the errors I unknowingly committed were made right,” he wrote in a statement.

Another allegation: One of his opponents, San Diego Community College District Trustee Sean Elo, made a fresh allegation Friday, announcing that he had reported to the FPPC another 29 instances of misspent funds, from 2015 through 2017, totaling $3,600 from the San Diego County Young Democrats, another group for which Barrios was treasurer.

Elo said he sent bank statements to the FPPC detailing what he says were illegal expenditures – which were payments to convenience stores and restaurants and mobile transfers to Barrios’s personal account.

The previous FPPC decision and the additional complaint, Elo argued, “provides evidence that Barrios has repeatedly violated the trust of multiple parties who entrusted him with money.”

Barrios did not respond to a request for comment on Elo’s complaint and allegation. An FPPC spokesman confirmed that the agency had received the complaint; it is now reviewing whether the complaint warrants an investigation.

Lisa Halverstadt contributed to this report. If you have a tip or feedback for the Politics Report, send it to scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org.

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